As the attitude of the US Supreme Court towards abortion rights becomes murkier, pro-choice organizations, including the ACLU, continue to push for the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade to be codified into Rhode Island law. The Reproductive Privacy Act, introduced by Representative Anastasia Williams and Senator Gayle Goldin (H 5125 Sub A and S 0152 Sub A), preserves the status quo of abortion healthcare in Rhode Island, and ensures that the shifting ideology of the Supreme Court does not impede upon a person’s right to choose. The RPA also repeals several state laws on the books which have been found to be unconstitutional, such as a spousal notification requirement. The ACLU testified (read our two pieces of testimony here and here) in support of the critical provisions contained within this bill. We also submitted a detailed memo rebutting the spurious claims of bill opponents that the legislation went beyond the principles of Roe.
Supporters of the RPA celebrated a huge victory when the bill passed the House with no amendments by a vote of 44-30. However, in May, the Senate Judiciary Commitee defeated the bill on a 5-4 vote. The Affiliate also prepared a detailed rebuttal to an alternative proposal offered by Sen. Stephen Archambault, who voted against the bill in committee. In early June, the Senate Judiciary Committee transmitted an amended version of the House bill, H 5125 Sub B, to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where it passed out of committee with a vote of 8-2. The bill passed the Senate floor on June 19th with a vote of of 21-17 and was immediately transmitted to the House floor for a vote in concurrence. The bill passed the House by a vote of 45-29 and was signed by the governor later in the evening.